Businesses add up losses after Moncton man employed by government-funded agency vanishes
RCMP investigating Daniel Bard for breach of trust, several civil lawsuits filed
Business owners in the Moncton area and beyond say they have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars after dealing with a Moncton man employed by a government-funded economic development agency.
Daniel Bard was vice-president of investment attraction for 3+ Corporation, to which the municipalities of Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview give more than $500,000 annually.
Three New Brunswick businesses have filed civil lawsuits against Bard.
He was sentenced by a Court of Queen's Bench judge in August to reimburse a Charlo business $130,000, but Bard, who has not been with 3+ since January 2018, is nowhere to be found. The agency is saying little about the case, and the circumstances of his departure from 3+ aren't known.
A Dieppe couple, meanwhile, have gone to the police, and the RCMP say they are now investigating Bard for breach of trust.
Dieppe couple go in for advice
Saly and Clinton Davis, who owned the Glamour Secrets salon in Dieppe's CF Champlain mall, told their story to CBC News.
In July 2017, after a few years in business, the store was just about to start turning a profit, but the couple's Glamour Secrets franchise agreement was coming to an end in a year. Wondering if they should make other investments, they went to 3+ for advice.
According to its website, the job of 3+ is to promote the greater Moncton region, attract investment and help existing businesses expand.
The agency assigned the Davises' case to Bard.
"They said he was an excellent match, said he can really help us," Saly said.
The couple met with Bard on a few occasions but said it was when they showed him their financials that he really took an interest in them.
"His whole aura changed," said Clinton Davis. "He was shocked, blown away, said he'd never seen revenue like this in a small business."
Bard went to the couple with a proposal — to help them open their own line of salons, a beauty school and a beauty products warehouse for an online store.
He would take them under his wing.
All they had to do was pay his side company, VM Venture Management Corp., $25,000 US as a brokerage fee.
He would secure them a loan of $8 million to $13 million to get the project started, and the space.
By September 2017, the couple had given Bard a bank draft for the full amount.
"He could not have been more convincing," Clinton said.
The loan money was supposed to be available within three months, according to a contract the Davises had a lawyer review before signing.
Several months went by, and the money still hadn't come.
Despite repeated efforts, the couple had a hard time meeting with Bard, who often told them he was out of the country.
In June 2018, nine months after they sent him money, they got a face-to-face meeting.
By now, they had decided not to renew their Glamour Secrets franchise.
Bard promised the Davises they would soon get the keys to a building to start their new business venture.
We've been on the verge of bankruptcy so many times.- Clinton Davis
More months passed and still nothing.
In January 2019, they confronted him again.
"Whenever we would meet, he always had amazingly positive progress reports for us," said Clinton. "And things kind of just were always hanging around the corner, around the verge of happening."
Faced with increasing pressure from the Davises, Bard made an apparent goodwill gesture in July 2019, handing over a cheque to cover all of the couple's initial investment.
Problem is, the cheque bounced. Bard had closed his bank account before the couple could deposit it.
That's when the Davises went to the police.
In addition to the $25,000 US brokerage fee, the Davises estimate they lost tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and supplies they bought for the project.
Deeper in debt
"It's been stressful, we've been on the verge of bankruptcy so many times, with always the promise of a brighter day right around the corner," said Clinton.
"We were finally about to get out of debt," he said, recalling the couple's Glamour Secrets experience. Then "we plunged ourselves immensely further into debt."
"We know people make bad investments all the time, that's the reality of life in business … to learn that it was all a façade, all a mirage, it's hard to process," he said.
Based on information they got from Bard, they had liquidated all their stock at their former salon in a hurry.
"We were lied to and had information fabricated to us by someone in an organization that we trusted, with alleged information that was insider that wasn't real," said Saly Davis.
About the time they went to police, the Davises learned a New Brunswick judge had ordered Bard to pay a Quebec-based metal company $37,000, plus interest, for failure to deliver on a payment.
Saly wants to know how a man who had this legal judgment against him going back to 2009 was operating so freely in New Brunswick, and she accused the 3+ Corporation of enabling him.
The Davises are hardly alone.
Charlo-based HIL Group paid Bard $130,000 in 2017. He promised the company an investment to help it bring to life a project to transform organic waste into biofuel pellets.
The money never came. HIL Group sued and won its case in August, but Bard did not attend court and hasn't been located.
"I considered him a friend back in the day," said HIL Group co-owner Luc Bernard. "Today I'd use another word."
A Miramichi numbered company filed a lawsuit in July against Bard for $175,000 in losses, and Tracadie utility vehicle manufacturer Lamtrac sued Bard in August for $200,000.
Those cases have yet to be heard.
Bard 'basically fleeing creditors'
Lawyer Christian Michaud says he knows of 52 alleged victims, some as far away as France.
He represents multiple parties who say they have lost money to Daniel Bard.
Based on documents he has seen during research for his clients, he estimated their combined losses at between $2 million and $5 million.
He said their chances of seeing their money again are slim, even if they sue and win.
"I consider that to be a waste of time because Mr. Bard is basically fleeing creditors," said Michaud.
The only hope, he believes, would be through an insolvency procedure, where Bard's remaining assets would be seized.
Michaud also wants to see 3+ held accountable. He thinks it should have known there was at least one lawsuit against Bard at the time he was hired. Instead, the agency enabled Bard, he said.
"How come they did not find this information which is readily available? That's something that is mind-boggling. I don't get it."
No idea where he is
Bard's website is active, and the company is still listed on New Brunswick's Corporate Registry.
CBC News has made several attempts to get in touch with Bard but has been unsuccessful.
Lawyer Michaud, and the Davises, say they firmly believe Bard is out of the country.
The economic development agency told CBC that Bard worked there for a year and a half, from July 2016 to January 2018.
In a statement issued Monday, Susy Campos, 3+ Corporation's CEO, said an internal investigation revealed Bard's private business did not involve 3+, but that she recommended to the board an independent review, which is to begin shortly.
With files from Sophie Désautels